Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘Manchester by the Sea’ (2016)

Amazon Studios Roadside Attractions

Amazon Studios
Roadside Attractions

The archetypal Father is many things. The biological dad. A person who behaves like a father. A vigilant caretaker. All these paternal activities encompass the same vital force: guide, lead, protect and introduce the child into the world.

Directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea is a sobering, often heartbreaking story about what happens when such maneuverability may no longer be possible.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a keep-to-himself janitor who tends small apartment buildings in a working-class section of Boston. He’s divorced – his ex-wife (Michelle Williams) has remarried – and keeps such a tight lid on his feelings that he periodically erupts. It’s a morose but stable and somewhat controllable existence.

This consistency changes when older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), still living in Manchester, dies, leaving behind teen son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Joe, rather than have the boy live with his ex-wife (Gretchen Mol), wants Lee to become Patrick’s guardian.

Despite financial means to help Lee transition into a new parental role, and even with solid emotional support from Joe’s close friend (C. J. Wilson), Lee is unwilling to agree to custody and legal adoption.

Amazon Studios Roadside Attractions

Amazon Studios
Roadside Attractions

As Lee wrestles with such an obligation, Patrick isn’t afraid to express his own brand of volatility in the face of being uprooted from Manchester, relocating to Boston, and possibly having to sell the family’s boat.

There’s a tragic reason for Lee’s reluctance, and the film delivers the grim suggestion that not all personal devastation contains the seed of renewal. Although acting like a dad is a potential trajectory for Lee, his transcending the reasons for his failure to be a responsible biological father may not be within reach.

Archetype: Father. Son.

Astrology Archetype: ☉ (Sun)

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